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Roam Research

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Takes a lifetime of preparation to be an overnight success. At first look, Roam is another note taking tool like Evernote or Notion. But then why is it also the fastest growing Saas application growing to $1M ARR in just a couple of months up there with Slack? Everyone wants to invest but he won’t let them. Anyone who tries it is hooked in 48 hrs (“this is exactly how my brain works! “). The website is bare bones. The logo is grainy and strange, you can tell they never hired a designer. I had heard the guys at OpenAI and DeepMind were using it, there is a #roamcult on Twitter and yet the first interview of the founder I saw (and this was not when he was living in a van that he drove down to Mexico but post the cult) had him smoking and drinking a whiskey and redbull. It was all quite strange and I spent a couple of hours digging in.


By August 2017 it was just Conor, a shitty application, one user, and $10k when he convinced his first employee (cofounder?) to join (https://twitter.com/conaw/status/1301047277067235328?s=21).


The original version of roam was really hard to use. He raised a small friends and family round from a dozen researchers writers who this was really solving a problem for and that sustained them for two years. The AI Safety research community (20 mathematicians adjacent to the Rationalist Community and Less Wrong) got it going. They were thinking about risk, existential risk, pandemics. Effective altruist, Open AI, Deepmind, Google Brain, and Ribbonfarm community were early users. David Perell then shifted over from Evernote. Hard to please people like Venkatesh Rao and Balaji S became proponents. Since going live in October 2019 usage has doubled week on week for people who use the site for more and more days per week. Today it’s a geeky tool for early adopters willing to go through a learning curve.


Conor was opinionated about his user, product adoption, and GTM. People who live and die by the quality of their thought, ideas. This meant researchers, writers and also founders. He understood Roam’s hotkeys, syntax, etc had a learning curve that not everyone would adopt and so he didn’t go broad early, just the early believers. His first users also became his investors, sort of like a kickstarter project. The plan is a Tesla-style GTM where early fans subsidize for the late masses.


Browsing #roamcult and you feel the tool is incidental and it‘s the philosophy thats a strong glue. “We have to have a way to explore over time, understand how our thinking changes over the course of that time, and have a running history of that networked thought.”


Ultimately, as of this writing, the tool basically gives you a place to write, and lets you discretize any bit of text using #tags or {{brackets}}. It’s an endless canvas that can be linked together in this way, vs files and folders. Finding things means writing queries (show me anything I know about thought traversing); your notes become an unstructured database and concepts link bidirectionally.

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